Let nurses and aides teach themselves

Develop self-learning module program

Your field staff are spread out in different offices, or perhaps employees have odd schedules. So how do you gather them together to give that crucial inservice on infection control, safety, or wound care?

The answer is simple, a New Jersey agency has found: Create self-learning modules that allow nurses to study when it’s most convenient for them. "We developed self-learning modules because we feel it’s not always realistic that our management personnel would be available for inservice programming at a time when employees are available," says Christine Wright, RN, director of nursing and client services for Professional Care Nursing Systems (PCNS) of Somers Point, NJ. The freestanding private agency serves southern New Jersey.

With the self-learning modules, employees can come into the office to learn the material whenever they like, so long as there is a supervisor or director in the building to answer their questions, says Lynda Murphy, human resources supervisor.

"They can’t take the self-learning modules home, but they can take the reference material home," Murphy says.

So far, Professional Care Nursing Systems has 25 to 30 self-learning modules, covering a variety of topics. Each packet varies in size up to one-half inch thick. "It began with our trying to keep in compliance with all the regulations," Wright explains. "You have to find realistic ways of implementing programs that will cover the material you need to cover to meet the standards."

Wright says the agency has found the modules to be highly effective in keeping staff in compliance with all regulations and standards.

Staff can earn continuing education credits by taking the modules on fire, safety, and infection control. Also, the certified home health aides need to complete 12 inservices per month to be recertified, and each module counts as one inservice, Murphy says. "I make sure they stay on schedule, and if they get behind, I send them a reminder notice," Murphy adds.

It took the agency two years to develop and fine-tune the module format, Wright says.

The agency started the process with a clinical team that included Wright, human resources, and other administrators. The team focused on creating modules that would tie into the standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, and with other accrediting organizations, Wright says.

The modules are reviewed and updated each year, Wright adds. "Creating the initial programs was very difficult and time-consuming," Wright adds. "Now it’s easier because we have our basic format."

In developing each module, the agency uses an inservice program description that includes a list of handouts and audiovisual tools. (See PCNS inservice program description, p. 26.)

The module format includes a six-step process and a question-and-answer time either at the beginning or end of the module. (See sample description of self-learning module, p. 27.)

Then the employee takes a written examination and fills out a course evaluation. (See PCNS course evaluation and examination answer sheet, p. 28.)

Each module includes an estimate of how long it will take for the employee to complete it. For example, the fire, safety, and infection control module lasts 90 minutes. "We gear it to the length of the video and approximately how long it takes to read the material and take the test," Murphy says. "Someone might finish it in 45 minutes, and someone else might take an hour and a half, but we try to do an accurate estimate."

Employees need to score an 80% or above on the tests, or they have to repeat the module. The tests have at least 20 questions. Either Murphy or a nurse scores the test.

Murphy says the staff haven’t missed the social element of inservices because the agency occasionally holds group meetings and other functions, such as an orientation program that all employees were asked to attend.

Also, employees can take the self-learning module in a group setting if other employees want to take the module at the same time, she adds.

Although the modules were created to ease inservice scheduling problems, Murphy occasionally has found it tricky to schedule times for employees to go through the modules. "There’s a little bit of scheduling on my end to make sure the room is available."

However, it has made education more convenient for employees, Murphy adds.

Employees who work nights can come in to study the module right after their shift ends in the morning, for instance. The room in which the modules can be studied is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Professional Care Nursing Systems (PCNS) of Somers Point, NJ, has developed self-learning modules to take the place of inservices on a variety of topics.

These modules, which last 60 to 90 minutes, give employees a chance to learn when it’s most convenient for them. And they will receive one-on-one help if needed.

Here is a sample of the agency’s self-learning module on wound care:


Preventing & Treating Pressure Sores Inservice Program


This Inservice program is designed as a SELF-LEARNING MODULE. The program takes approximately 60 minutes to complete. There are STEP-BY-STEP instructions to guide you through the learning process. In addition, a knowledgeable PCNS management representative will also be available to answer questions or clarify information.



Instructions: Please read and familiarize yourself with the Course Objectives below:


Staff will receive training in:

1) Recognizing early and worsening signs of pressure sores

2) Identifying problems that lead to pressure sores

3) Developing a good prevention system

4) Assisting a person with limited physical or mental abilities in preventing pressure sores

5) Varying positions to relieve pressure

6) Treating pressure sores early to encourage healing



Instructions: Please familiarize yourself with these PCNS policies and procedures below. Please request copies of any policies you would like to read at home.


To assist employees in the prevention and treatment of pressure sores, the manuals listed below are available for all employees to review:

1. Decubitus Ulcer Classification/Assessment

2. Decubitus Ulcer (Pressure Sore) Care and Treatment



Instructions: 1) Please view the Helping at Home: Preventing & Treating Pressure Sores Video (approx. 12 minutes)

2) Please read and familiarize yourself with the handouts in your folder.


The Preventing & Treating Pressure Sores folder includes a summary of the video presentation as follows:

1) Recognizing Pressure Sores — Stages I through IV

2) The problems that lead to pressures

3) How to develop a good prevention program

4) Position changes

5) Assisting someone with Limited Physical or Mental Disabilities

6) Treating Pressure Sores



Congratulations! You have completed Steps 1-3 in the Preventing & Treating Pressure Sores Inservice. Did you understand the information presented to you?

Instructions: Please stop here and ask questions to the designated PCNS representative. If you do not have questions, please proceed to Step 5.


PCNS staff are encouraged to discuss their questions and comments about this topic with appropriate Management Personnel. The following PCNS personnel are qualified to answer questions related to Preventing & Treating Pressure Sores:

1) Director of Quality Management

2) Clinical Supervisor

3) Director of Nursing & Client Services

The above personnel can also assist you with obtaining Personal Protective Equipment for use in PCNS client homes.